By Stewart Grant
In the interest of journalism, I made the trip to the Detroit Red Wings’ season-opening game last week to see the brand new facility known as Little Caesars Arena.
I’m sure many of you have visited Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings had played since moving over from the Olympia in 1979. Joe Louis Arena had been host to so many great hockey memories and to consistently strong Red Wing teams, including four squads that lifted the Stanley Cup (1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008). However, hockey arena standards have changed significantly since 1979 and so has the city of Detroit itself. The formerly-booming Motor City has seen its worst days and is now in the early stages of revival.
The opening of the new Little Caesars Arena puts an exclamation point on the 50-block project known as District Detroit which is revitalizing the city’s downtown core. Along with beautiful sports stadiums Comerica Park (home of baseball’s Tigers) and Ford Field (home of football’s Lions), District Detroit (www.districtdetroit.com) also includes a number of uniquely-branded neighborhoods packed with new bars, restaurants and accommodations.
Construction of the Little Caesars Arena began on April 24, 2015. It was finished in 2017 at an overall cost of $863 million dollars, which was funded through a partnership of private and public interests.
For those who watched the Red Wings’ game on TV the first night and wondered why the stands looked half-empty, I can attest that the NHL’s official attendance for the game of 19,515 97.6% of capacity) seems accurate. Folks were just so caught up in exploring the facilities’ many amenities that it was difficult to return to the seats in time for the start of hockey action.
The beautiful, glass-roofed concourse includes easy access to four full-service restaurants: Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit, Sports & Social Detroit, 313 Grill Co., and Mike’s Pizza Bar. There are also oodles of bars to grab a drink of your choice, and even an outdoor beer garden accessible during the game.
Arena planners took notes from many of the NHL’s modern rinks, with particular inspiration coming from the Bell Centre in Montreal. One of the distinctive features of the arena is the steepness of the spectator bowl, which brings fans closer to the action. Great attention was also given to arena acoustics for maximum enjoyment of the many concerts that will help fill the facility on a regular basis.
Per discussion with a Little Caesars Arena (“LCA”) service representative, there are 30 events booked within the first 31 days of the new arena. Beyond the Red Wings and Pistons home games, events taking place within the first month are Disney on Ice, WWE Hell in a Cell, and notable musical acts Ed Sheeran, Paul McCartney, Kid Rock, Imagine Dragons, Fall Out Boy, The Eagles, and Janet Jackson. The November lineup includes The Weeknd, Guns N’ Roses, Lady Gaga, Jay Z and Halsey. In total, LCA officials expect to have approximately 225 events per year at the new facility, with the majority of these in the nine months outside of summer (due to summer concerts in Michigan typically occurring outdoors).
Our geographical placement in St. Marys makes Detroit an easy drive to take in a sporting event or concert. Although Detroit has a reputation for having some pretty rough areas, the Little Caesars Arena is further evidence that the revitalization of the Motor City’s downtown is well underway.